THE STORM AFTER THE QUIET
When I think back to that small town in Blikoorland where I started my teaching career, I remember not only the Afrikaner cattle, camel thorns and sand storms, but also the quiet that descended on town on a Sunday after church.
Is this perhaps where the expression “as quiet as the grave” originated? Where were the dogs that bark, the stray cat or the breeze to temper the intensity of the sun? To wish that “something” would break the monotony of the quiet was to wish the snapdragons in the garden would start breathing fire. And to walk around in the streets would seem like disturbing the quiet-of-the-graveyard, that silence that made an adventurous young teacher from the city just want to desert her post.
Well, the alternative was to look for excitement on the gravel roads and dirt tracks of the district. My new colleague joined me, but even on those dirt tracks you eventually wished for a guinea fowl or a kori bustard to intrude on the silence.
In a dip we noticed the white car next to the road. A blue light on the roof started to flash and a siren cut through the silence. Can you believe it? A traffic cop on a Sunday next to this dust-desolate road? I think the town’s only shade-tree cowboy was only too happy to be able to flag down at least one car.
First the licences were checked, the car’s and mine, next came the tyre inspections. (Perhaps I should mention here that any person in uniform makes me break out in a cold sweat, ever since my childhood days.)
Next the lights: turn on the headlights, dim, left front indicator, right rear indicator, left… For someone whose left and right tend to be interchangeable some days, it was terrifying. I had to concentrate hard! But when he bellowed, “brake lights… brake lights!”, I had a brain freeze. I couldn’t see another button on the dashboard for this specific light, so I asked, “Where do I switch them on?”
“Just put your foot on the brake!” the speed detective snarled, not at all impressed with my stupid question.
I am one of those educators who believe in setting a good example, so there was no fault to find with my car, but as I pulled away I accidentally touched that inconveniently located button on the steering wheel and hooted at the speed cop!
As for silence, the following few Sundays were just as quiet, but I was busy: I spent my time getting the passenger seat dry, spotless and odourless again, since my colleague’s uncontrolled laughter had taken its toll.
These days, I appreciate a Sunday-afternoon nap and long for the Sunday-afternoon quiet of the platteland. Blikoor, BLOEMFONTEIN >